Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Greece Reform Plan Offers Major Compromises
6:24am EST
By Matthias Sobolewski

BERLIN (Reuters) - Greece has promised not to roll back any ongoing or completed privatizations and ensure that any state spending to address a "humanitarian crisis" does not hurt its budget, according to a document containing its reform plans seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

The list of reforms aims to offer compromises on major issues such as labor reforms and social spending to satisfy both European partners funding the country and Greek voters who voted in a left-wing government to end years of rigid austerity.

Greece needed to present its plans as a condition for extending its bailout program for four months in a deal struck with euro zone partners on Friday.

On the issue of minimum wages, for example, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's government climbed down from election pledges to raise the level immediately. Instead it said it would phase in collective bargaining with a view to raising minimum wages over time and that any changes would be agreed with partners.

Greece also said it would reform the public sector wage system in a way that would not reduce pay further but would ensure that the overall public wage bill does not rise.

Athens also committed to consolidating pension funds to achieve savings, and eliminate loopholes and incentives for early retirement - in an apparent effort to find a compromise between the government's objective of avoiding any further pension cuts as previously demanded by EU and IMF inspectors.

Athens sent the six-page document to its European Union and International Monetary Fund creditors late on Monday. They must approve the plans to pave the way for the four month extension.

Euro zone finance ministers are due to discuss the reforms plan later on Tuesday in a conference call and initial reaction to the plan has been positive. A source close to the European Commission said on Tuesday it was a "valid starting point" for talks over the bailout.

The list also includes pledges to reform tax policy, review and control spending in "every area" of government spending. Athens also promised to ensure its banks are run on sound commercial and banking principles, in an apparent effort to show that the government will not interfere in banking operations.

(writing by Deepa Babington; editing by David Stamp)

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